Issue: July 2016
|An informational bulletin on security, medical, and travel related issues|
Hotel Cybersecurity - Keeping Traveler Information Safe Remains a Concern
According to data collected by the cybersecurity company Panda Security, there has been a huge increase in credit card theft from hotels since 2015. Hotels of all sizes have been hit, from tiny boutique hotels to multi-national chains. By some estimates, tens of thousands of travelers had personal or financial information stolen. Attack vectors range from broad malware attacks to targeted invasions of individual locations.
2015 - The Year of Major System Breaches
In 2015, multiple hotel chains—including Hilton, Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental, Starwood, and Trump Hotel Collection—reported massive data breaches. The first discovery was in March, when Mandarin Oriental announced that malware had infected its sales systems at multiple sites, compromising customer data from the point-of-sales (POS) systems in its gift shops and restaurants. Trump Hotel Collection announced in October that it had been breached in July, and Hilton and Starwood followed in the months after. The breaches appeared to follow the pattern of the first incident: long-duration invasions, usually through POS terminals, at hotel front desks, restaurants, parking areas, spa desks, and gift shops. In one case, Rosen Hotel and Resorts was infected with malware for about 17 months, from late 2014 to early 2016, before the company became aware of the irregularities.
How do cybercriminals breach the system?
The most frequently reported attacks have been caused by spear-phishing emails, which include an infected attachment—something like a reservation form or receipt, which would not seem unusual to employees. When an unsuspecting staff member accesses the document, malware infects the hotel's computer system. Criminals then use the malware to gain access to customer payment data processed by POS terminals. Cybercriminals target POS systems because they usually deal with a high volume of credit card transactions and are often less secure than other systems.
What kind of data do thieves take?
In most cases, criminals have stolen credit card information. However, because hotels collect different types of personal information from guests, there is an outside possibility that criminals could gain access to travelers' names, addresses, birthdays, travel plans, and in some cases, passport numbers.
What are hotels doing to protect themselves and their customers from such attacks?
In the aftermath of the 2015 attacks, hotels took new steps to protect their clients' data. Recognizing that traditional anti-virus programs failed to catch some malware attacks, companies have turned to Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions, which are used to detect and respond to data breaches. This gives the company more moment-to-moment data about their systems. Furthermore, many hotels made efforts to increase their staff's awareness of what phishing emails look like, strengthened their data storage policies, and started encrypting sensitive information.
Are the security measures effective?
It's hard to say how successful these additional measures will be in preventing future breaches. In the first six months of 2016 there have been fewer cyberattacks than in the second half of 2015. However, reported compromises may not reflect the actual threat because many companies restrict information about data breaches to protect their reputation. Indeed, companies have resisted the establishment of an industry-wide standard for cybersecurity, concerned that required breach reporting would create negative publicity.
How can travelers keep their data safe during a hotel stay?
As the situation stands, travelers can't do much to protect against company-wide data breaches. However, travelers can take steps to minimize the damage. The best strategy is to monitor accounts for suspicious banking activity. To do this, travelers should check their bank account frequently for any irregular activity after staying at a hotel. If irregular activity occurs, travelers should follow up with the bank and, if necessary, the hotel
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Travelers are relying more and more on carry-on luggage. With airlines charging more than ever for checking bags—and netting more than USD 3.5 billion from bag fees in 2015—the trend of travelers using carry-on as the primary mode for transporting luggage is likely here to stay. For safety-conscious travelers this raises some questions: Are my things safer in carry-on or in a checked bag? Are there different security concerns when traveling with carry-on luggage? And how can I make sure my things are safe?
What are the concerns when traveling with carry-on luggage?
According to reports from airlines and government monitoring bodies, incidents of theft of carry-on bags have increased in the last few years. According to one report released in early 2016 by the Hong Kong government, there has been a 25 percent growth in reported carry-on thefts from 2014 to 2015. Not only are thefts more popular, but the value of stolen items has risen too. In 2016, one traveler was reportedly robbed of USD 260,000 in watches and money. While the incident was an outlier—most reported thefts are significantly smaller—there is evidence that travelers are carrying more valuables on them and in their carry-on luggage, mostly in the form of small electronics.
When are travelers most at risk for luggage theft when traveling with a carry-on?
Thieves are most effective when a traveler's attention is pulled somewhere else or when travelers leave luggage unattended. According to a report by Absolute Software, a company that tracks the location and time that small electronics are stolen, almost half of all thefts happen at the airport, either at the baggage claim area or on the plane. In practical terms, this means that travelers are being robbed when they're trying to collect other luggage, or when their bags are in overhead storage during the flight. A Boston Globe investigation of a gang of airport thieves found that the thieves operated while the plane was in transport—particularly during overnight hours, when passengers are asleep.
The same Absolute Software report suggests that approximately one in five thefts happen at check-in and security, a process that forces an unavoidable separation of bag and traveler. According to some anecdotal reports, thieves have targeted gray trays as they pass through security, grabbing any valuables left in plain sight. According to some industry experts, there have been reports of gangs of organized criminals repeatedly targeting terminals by moving through security and grabbing things from bins and neglected bags.
Ways to prevent carry-on luggage theft:
• Keep your most valuable belongings on you at all times. Cash, credit cards, and ID should never be kept in your carry-on.
• Put your closed bag upside down in the overhead bin. That makes it harder for criminals to access the contents of your luggage.
• Do not leave your luggage unattended. Not only could it be stolen, but security-conscious airports will seize unattended bags, and bags that they deem suspicious will be destroyed.
• At security, if the items on the X-ray belt are moving more quickly than the screening line, wait until the last minute to put your valuable items on the belt, and keep them in your sight at all times.
• Stow luggage underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin across the aisle—
you want to be able to keep your eyes on it. We're conditioned to put the bag over our heads, but that actually makes it easier for someone to riffle through your bag without drawing your attention.
• Avoid stowing luggage in an overhead compartment that is far away from your seat. If you have to, speak to a flight attendant to gate check your bag or change seats.
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Prevent Bug Bites
Bugs (including mosquitoes, ticks, and some flies) can spread diseases (including Zika, dengue, and Lyme disease), many of which cannot be prevented or treated with a vaccine or medicine. Reduce your risk by taking steps to prevent bug bites. See below for special instructions to protect babies, children, and pregnant women.
Use Insect Repellent
Use EPA-registered insect repellents* that contain at least 20% DEET (products include Cutter Backwoods and Off! Deep Woods) for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs. Other repellents protect against mosquitoes but may not be effective against ticks or other bugs. These include:
• Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin); products include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan
• Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD); products include Repel Lemon Eucalyptus
• IR3535; products include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart
Find the EPA-registered insect repellent that is right for you. The effectiveness of insect repellents that are not registered with the EPA, including some natural repellents, is not known. For more information, see EPA's website.
When using insect repellent, follow the instructions on the package and reapply as directed:
• In general, higher percentages of the active ingredient provide longer-lasting protection. However, this increase in protection time maximizes at about 50% DEET.
• If you are also using sunscreen, apply it first, let it dry, and then apply repellent. Do not use products that contain both sunscreen and repellent.
• Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
Consider using clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) that are treated with permethrin (an insecticide). You can buy pre-treated clothes or treat your own clothes. If treating items yourself, follow instructions carefully. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
Cover Exposed Skin
As much as possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat. Tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pants into your socks for maximum protection. Some bugs, such as tsetse flies, can bite through thin fabric.
Avoid Bugs Where You Are Staying
Choose hotel rooms or other accommodations that are air conditioned or have good window and door screens so bugs can't get inside. If bugs can get into where you are sleeping, sleep under a permethrin-treated bed net that can be tucked under the mattress. When outdoors, use area repellents (such as mosquito coils) containing metofluthrin or allethrin.
Information for Specific Groups
Traveling with Children
Follow instructions for applying repellent on children:
• Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months old.
• Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children younger than 3 years old.
• Children should not touch repellent. Adults should apply it to their hands and gently spread it over the child's exposed skin.
• Do not apply repellent to children's hands because they tend to put their hands in their mouths.
• Keep repellent out of the reach of children.
For babies under 2 months old, protect them by draping mosquito netting over their carrier or car seat. Netting should have an elastic edge for a tight fit.
Some infections, including Zika, can spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus, so pregnant women should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites while traveling. In the case of Zika, because infection in a pregnant woman is linked to serious birth defects and miscarriage, CDC recommends that pregnant women not travel to areas with Zika outbreaks.
When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
*Insect repellent brand names are provided for your information only. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health and Human Services cannot recommend or endorse any name-brand products.
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From the Assist America Case Files
Assist America's Services attached to an Association Membership
70-year-old male with cervical spine fracture
Air Ambulance with Medical Team
Medical Repatriation via Ground Ambulance
Assist America's Operations Center in Princeton, NJ received a call from a member's wife. The couple was vacationing in Puerto Rico, boating and swimming, when a strong wave threw her husband, leaving him seriously injured. The patient had been brought to a local emergency room where x-rays revealed that he had sustained a fracture of his cervical spine.
Assist America's coordinators began to monitor his care. The patient's condition was delicate—surgery was required and if handled improperly, he could suffer from permanent quadriplegia. The hospital where the patient was located didn't have a Neurologist on staff to oversee the surgery, and while there were other hospitals on the island, Assist America felt that they were not as well equipped for the surgery as facilities back in the US. Assist America's clinical team was in agreement that an evacuation to Miami for surgery would be the best course of action. As they worked to secure a receiving bed for the patient and reached out to his wife to advise her of their plan, they learned that the hospital in Puerto Rico had acted independently and began the patient's transfer to another local hospital with a Neurologist on call. Furthermore, the couple's passports and drivers licenses had been left on the boat, nearly an hour away.
Assist America's medical team worked quickly, both to arrange a speedy evacuation to Miami and prevent the patient's full admission to the second facility in Puerto Rico. If fully admitted, it would take valuable time to convince the treating doctor to relinquish the patient to a higher level of care. Luckily, the coordinators were able to put all of the pieces in place quickly, and before the patient could be seen and admitted to the second hospital in Puerto Rico, an air ambulance, complete with a full medical team, arrived to transport the patient and his wife to a skilled facility in Miami. Assist America was even able to pull strings to allow the travel to occur with just photocopies of the couple's identification that they were able to obtain from the Captain of the ship. All of this was fully paid for by Assist America.
Once in Miami, the patient underwent surgery and with Assist America monitoring his care, began his long recovery process. Physical therapy would be needed and the couple preferred to receive continued care from the doctor who had performed the surgery. Although their home was in Louisiana, the patient's sister lived proximate to the hospital in Miami and agreed that the patient could stay with her until he regained his full strength. Once the couple had secured a home health nurse to oversee the patient's care in his sister's home, Assist America arranged and paid for a ground ambulance to take the patient to his new temporary home.
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15 Mistakes to Avoid When Traveling Solo
|Solo travel is a growing and compelling mode of travel in the 21st century. As our daily lives become more fragmented and sometimes isolated, it may seem counterintuitive that solo travel can be an antidote to how alone we find ourselves in many ways. But the very fact of being alone forces solo travelers to burst their own solitude to find companionship among strangers in a strange land.|
There are always important safety considerations for solo travelers, but solo travel can offer rich rewards that are both different and sometimes more expansive than those found when traveling with other people. With a little thought and care, it can be a life-defining or life-changing event. To help you get the most out of your solo trip, check out these 15 mistakes to avoid.
1. Don't feel obligated to stay in hostels.
It seems that the most common advice you will find when researching solo travel online is to stay in a hostel or other communal living establishment, as these lend themselves to meeting people quickly and relatively easily. This is a valid point but there is also value in the occasional more traditional lodging. These can offer a safe zone when needed, a bit more comfort when you are tired, and a place to unwind and desensitize from hard travels or constant sensory input. It can also be a more secure place to leave your belongings while you're out exploring.
What hostels and guesthouses are great for is meeting other folks doing the same thing that you are -- true fellow travelers. But you don't have to commit to them unrelentingly; your choice of lodging is just another tool in your solo traveler bag. When in need of comfort, safety and convenience, choose a reputable hotel—when in need of companionship, think about hostels and other alternative lodging options.
2. Don't get too ambitious at the beginning or end of a trip.
A lesson learned by frequent travelers is to reel in their ambitions on the first and last night's of a trip. At these times, you need things to go well; you are at your most vulnerable when you are just arriving in a place (and most laden down with luggage and stuff), and at your most stressed when you are trying to get on a plane or train on time. On these nights, take it easy on yourself; you might stay near the airport or train station, or splurge on a well-known hotel, or take a cab when you might otherwise save money by taking public transit.
3. Don't run out of cash.
Having no money in your pocket and no way to get any is a problem for any traveler, but even more so when traveling solo. Asking strangers for help, sleeping on a bench or any number of last-ditch tactics may be doable when traveling with others—traveling solo, you definitely don't want to be asking for free rides and crash pads with no one to watch your back. It's not a bad idea to hide a $100 bill somewhere for emergencies.
4. Don't avoid your own company.
Many solo travel tips focus on how to meet people, but this can be counterproductive—there was a reason you chose to travel alone, after all. Many folks who travel in big groups yearn for a moment or two by themselves—you don't have that problem, so enjoy it!
5. Don't fail to figure out what you want to do on your own.
As an extension of the item above, even if you have met some great people, there still may be things best done on your own. These might be things that relate to niche interests of yours that not everyone will appreciate (an extended visit to a specialty museum, perhaps), or physically demanding outings on which not everyone may be as goal-oriented as you might be (such as surfing lessons).
6. Don't resist impulse behavior.
One tremendous benefit of traveling alone is that you can change your plans without consulting anyone else about anything. This is a luxury you should not resist, as it is almost non-existent in regular day-to-day life—if you like an idea, go for it.
7. Don't get too intoxicated.
Similar to keeping some cash on you, keeping a tab on your bar tab is probably a good idea as well. If you are not in control of your faculties, you become a mark for thieves and other bad people, and with no wingperson to help you out, you could get in trouble. Teetotaling is not required, but getting hammered might not be your best option.
8. Don't ignore the potential dangers.
As is becoming clear, there are potential risks when traveling alone that might not be as prevalent when traveling with other people. A good rule of thumb: If your internal alarms are going off, listen to them.
9. Don't overschedule.
Overscheduling can be a trip killer under almost any conditions, but as a solo traveler this can really leave you wrung out. You are responsible for all the planning, all the execution, and all the mundane and tedious tasks as well—finding a store to buy a razor and toothpaste, figuring out train schedules, searching for an ATM, waiting out a bout of traveler's tummy. Even without considering these small hassles, the ability to go with the flow is part of the reason to travel alone, and overscheduling can make that impossible.
10. Don't forget to make reservations.
Standing in long lines is a drag, but standing in long lines alone is almost unendurable. If you are going to popular attractions, museums or anywhere else that will require some waiting, get online ahead of time to see if you can make reservations or purchase tickets in advance.
11. Don't make things hard on yourself.
Traveling alone can be as grueling as it is exhilarating, so choose your battles well. Some simple but carefully chosen times to take the easy way out might be to get rental cars at on-airport counters to avoid hauling your stuff around on multiple shuttles, to go for hotels that don't require long commutes to your preferred attractions, to book direct flights or at least avoid tight connections and to take some of the tips mentioned above like the occasional hotel upgrade and unscheduled afternoon.
12. Don't let the clock tyrannize you.
Another great benefit of traveling solo is that you alone set the pace and schedule. This might be one of very few times in your life that you decide what time to get up, what time to eat, what time to go to sleep, when to hustle and when to take it easy. Get up early, get up late, take a nap midday—whatever. Your time is yours; make the most of it.
13. Don't be shy, and don't cut off casual conversations.
If you want to meet and talk to people, to find out who they are and how they live, traveling alone is going to require some courage. Most people have a bit of a shy streak, and in many of the types of people inclined to travel alone, this trait might be even more pronounced. To get the most out of your travels and encounters, you are going to have to suppress your shyness once in a while.
One way to get started on this might be to refrain from ending casual conversations that spring up in shops, when asking directions, in a restaurant, in a line. Instead of cutting short these unexpected exchanges, ask a simple question about someone's family, or the neighborhood, or almost anything really. This can often lead to a longer conversation, and you'll be under way to getting some practice talking to strangers. As you go along, it will become easier all the time.
14. Don't be afraid to seek out familiar company.
Many big cities have expat bars or even folks offering lodging who might have an accent like your own. Don't feel like you need to avoid anyone from back home, as sometimes these brief interludes with the relatively familiar can energize you as you venture back out to find folks and customs very different from your own. TravBuddy.com and CouchSurfing.com are good places to start on these, and many guidebooks offer information about where the local "American bar" can be found.
15. Don't fail to have a Plan B.
Having a fallback plan if things go sideways is a good idea in general, but an even better one when traveling alone. Most importantly, it can be helpful to have someone who knows where you are, where you are headed and what you are up to. Internet kiosks, smartphones, email and social media make this very easy to do today; leave some breadcrumbs as you go along to let folks know when to start worrying—and when just to be jealous at the great adventures you are having while they are stuck at home staring at Facebook.
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21 New Travel Apps
| New Apps seem to be available on an almost daily basis these days. Following is a list of some of the hottest new Apps that have come out in 2016 and on which platforms they are available.|
Airound records how many miles and hours you have spent flying, logging every journey you have made via GPS. Open the app when you board, turn on flight mode and then, on landing, turn off flight mode for an automatic calculation. You can organize your travels according to frequency or duration, map routes, and input flight numbers and aircraft types. Apple
Amadeus Mobile Messenger
Designed for companies that employ travel managers, this piece of software is similar to Safeture in that it helps to mitigate risk by flagging location-specific issues that could be a danger.It also provides a direct line to your employer back home, and can be used to monitor spending as well as policy compliance. Tracking technology shows your manager exactly where you are. Android, Apple, Blackberry, Windows
Hotel reservation site booking.com has launched Booking Now, which uses geolocation software to show properties nearby with rooms available. It lists more than 600,000 hotels worldwide with images and reviews. You also get directions, Apple's Passbook integration, and offline access to save on data. Pay for a room in just two taps. Android, Apple
Launched in August 2015 in partnership with 20 airports (and another 200 by the end of that year), Flio offers one-touch connectivity to free airport WiFi, as well as discounts and offers at airside shops and eateries. There's also advice for navigating terminals, as well as the ability to book extras, such as lounge access and transport. Android, Apple
The hotel group's new app enables you to make and manage bookings, check in and out, arrange airport transfers, request toiletries, wake-up calls, housekeeping, turndown and room service, and book restaurants, spa treatments and golf. There are also tips on the local area. Android, Apple, Amazon
Travel planning app GoEuro enables users to compare journey times and prices between airlines, coaches and trains across 33,000 European destinations. Partners include National Express, First Train, Eurolines, Eurostar, Virgin Trains, Gatwick Express, Easyjet, Renfe, Deutsche Bahn and TrenItalia. Android, Apple
The Dutch airline revamped its app last year to make it more intelligent. It has an attractive, intuitive interface allowing you to make bookings, check in and select your seat, while new features include the ability to predict your preferences based on past data. The reservation process has been simplified and you can pay in-app with credit card details that are stored for next time. Specially installed beacons help you to navigate Amsterdam Schiphol airport. Android, Apple, Blackberry, Windows
Charter one of 4,800 private jets worldwide with the swipe of a finger. Arrange one-way, return or multi-destination journeys, and book seats on empty legs (there are usually about 200 services a day and prices can save you up to 75 per cent). Not only can you take your pets, you can also request to smoke on board. One-hour flights from US$2,158 per aircraft; six-hour journeys from US$21,585. Android, Apple, Blackberry World
This cloud-based app enables event organizers to conduct live polls of attendees, create a platform for sharing opinions and ideas and ask questions in real time. More than 1,000 delegates from the same group can use it simultaneously—it can also be employed for training sessions, virtual meetings and multi-location events. It costs from US$99 to US$899 per room/per month. Android, Apple, Blackberry, Windows
MileHi promises to put you in touch with like-minded people on the same flight. It says it's aimed at both leisure and business travelers, but it will likely be used as a hook-up rather than a networking platform (the clue is in the name). Simply type in your flight details to see if any other users are on board. If you like the look of them, you can send a private message—and arrange to meet in the galley, perhaps. Android, Apple
Previously for corporates only, Safeture was extended to the public in the summer. It provides real-time information on security and health risks, the weather, civil unrest, terror attacks and airport disruption alerts around the world, with data pulled from government bodies, foreign offices and meteorological agencies. It also offers a one-click connection to local emergency services, as well as location sharing to show others where you are. Android, Apple
Disappointed that you can't do the bike ride you planned? This app will suggest things to do in 11 cities based on real-time weather forecasts. Rewritten every three months, the guides (US$0.99 each) provide five recommendations for shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, events, sights and hotels according to the season and across a range of budgets, with places of interest geotagged on maps. Apple
New features on the SIA app range from a "My trips" page with booking reference numbers and flight schedules listed, to a reservation widget so you can search and pay for flights and check in online. Boarding passes can be saved to Apple's Passbook, and Krisflyer members can see their points. Android, Apple
Announced in June 2015, Skyzen pairs with the Jawbone fitness tracker via your iPhone (Apple Watch and Fitbit versions are coming). Developed by IATA (the International Air Transport Association), with data from the Official Airline Guide (OAG), it's designed to monitor your sleep and activity patterns in the air. Information on time zones can also help to combat jetlag. Apple, Android soon
The latest update of the Trip Advisor app expands its social uses by introducing the Travel Timeline function—where users can now automatically record the places they visit, the road trips they have done, and even hikes that they have completed. It's a great way to take a trip down memory lane. Android, Apple, Windows (tablets)
The airline has updated its app to allow you to re-book if your flight is delayed or cancelled, and view interactive airport maps for Chicago, Denver, Houston, LA, New York Newark, San Francisco and Washington DC, with more to come. If you have a mobile boarding pass, it will show the route to your gate and the time it takes to walk there. Amazon, Android, Apple, Blackberry, Windows
A growing pain for many travelers is having to scroll through a list of unwanted emails to locate the one they're looking for. With Unroll.Me, a simple swipe to the left will automatically unsubscribe you from email subscriptions that you don't want. No future emails from these senders will land in your inbox. Apple
Virtual members' club Urbanologie gives you the lowdown on new hotels, restaurants, pop-ups, exhibitions and bars in London, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Dubai. The guides are updated daily by local freelancers and in-house staff. There's also a clever pull-out map that works well on touchscreens. It costs US$160 per year but use offer code "businesstraveller" to receive a year's free membership. Android, Apple
This peer-to-peer app connects you with locals in 30 European cities, including London, Paris, Madrid and Amsterdam, who can set up tours (for a fee), meetings and provide tips. Publish your itinerary on your profile and you can start talking to fellow travelers or residents. A partnership with British Airways means you can book BA and Oneworld partner flights at the same time. Android, Apple
Scan Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters on menus or signs and this clever translation app will instantly convert the text into English so you can order food and get around with ease. You don't even need an internet connection. Users get ten free translations a day, while an upgrade of US$1.99 will allow a week-long unlimited package, or US$6.99 will get you as many as you want forever. More languages coming soon. Android, Apple
This "social currency" app enables you to swap your money for currency supplied direct from a local abroad. Transfer the amount you want to exchange onto the app, select a currency and it will match you with someone who is willing to buy it. If it's someone you know on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, the transaction is free; if not, there is a 1 per cent fee. If there are no matches, WeSwap will buy it from you for 1.5 per cent. You will receive a free prepaid Mastercard to withdraw your cash from an ATM or make purchases. It holds up to 16 currencies. Android, Apple
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For the latest, up-to-date information regarding key regions, click on the links below:
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